Rachel Saratoga

Well before the call to the post for the Gr. 1 $250,000 Coaching Club American Oaks, about half the crowd of 20,352 fans had left for home or the backyard of Siro's or the Horseshoe.  Who could blame them? 

The heat was sweltering and old horse-drawn carriages weren't enough of a draw to excite them. In addition, the "Hats Off to Saratoga Festival" was getting into high gear downtown.  The party had been delayed 24 hours because of the rain; pent-up bands were preparing to blow the roof off of Broadway.  They would, if they could, of course.

The first two of the four extra days that NYRA added to the meet haven't drawn the folks in as planned.  Danny Meyer must be scratching his head wondering why people aren't lining up for his hamburgers.  Horseplayers, too, must be hoping that they're only a couple days away from having a race card that seems more like the Spa's than the Big Apple's.

People get used to planning their lives the same way each year and maybe the early start has been a bit disorienting. History unfolded in a similar manner when the meet went from 30 to 36 days. Some folks continue to believe that Saratoga is "the August place to be" and they won't hurry the calendar.

As a matter of fact, Jess Jackson, Harold McCormick and Steve Asmussen believed that Monmouth Park was the July place to be for Rachel Alexandra.  The reigning Horse of the Year took her act on the road to win the pot-enriched Lady's Secret.  You could watch the carpetbagger run on monitors throughout Saratoga.  But there wasn't any notice that her race was on or any sound to help fans understand what was happening.

The small groups of people, craning their necks to watch the television sets, didn't exhibit the passion they did when Rachel Alexandra won the Woodward.  They just let the action unfold and disbursed quietly and quickly. If you could put prejudices behind, there was plenty to cheer about otherwise. 

Devil May Care, on her way to a showdown with Blind Luck in the Alabama Stakes, won the furlong-shortened feature. Wine Police, a first-out son of Speightstown, beat a very good horse in Soldat in the seventh.  Ash Zee, at odds-on, shook off a bad start to triumph in the eighth.  These two latter horses are trained by Asmussen.  One of the two broken toteboards was operative. The new one looked better.

Vic Zast is the author of the award-winning book "The History and Art of 25 Travers."  You can read more from him on Facebook and Twitter.

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